RESIDENTS had their say on the proposed relocation of Farnham’s post office to a WHSmith store when a consultation was held in the library’s Culver Room.
The consultation took place on February 26 and there was a steady stream of concerned residents sharing their views throughout the three-and-a-half hour event.
As previously reported in the Herald, the proposed relocation could see the post office, which has been situated at 107 West Street since it was officially opened in January 1973, closed and moved to WHSmith in The Borough.
The consultation was held to allow customers of the post office to ask questions about the proposal to officials before the end of the consultation period on March 6.
It comes after a petition objecting to the plans received 1,866 signatures over three Saturday mornings at the end of 2018.
One of these signatures belonged to Farnham resident David Wylde, who said: “I don’t think it’ll make the slightest bit of difference.
“I think they’ll go ahead with what they need to do, for financial reasons, but they will make it appear like they consulted us.”
He continued: “I think the company owning it is putting money before people.”
Catherine Cook, aged 58, expressed concerns over the proposed relocation during Tuesday’s consultation.
She said: “I feel a town the size of Farnham still needs a dedicated post office building that will serve the community within the town. I feel perhaps it’s a done deal.”
Also at the consultation was Judith Hunt, aged in her 70s, who said: “I quite like the fact there is a designated area for the post office, rather than sharing it with WHSmith.
“Some of the post office bigwigs are too far away – they don’t understand the local feeling here.”
A final decision will be confirmed following a review of the consultation, which Mark Gibson, external affairs manager of the Post Office, estimated would be “some time in June”.
During the consultation in Farnham, Mr Gibson said: “Today isn’t about changing minds.
“It’s for us to answer questions and alleviate some concern, which I think I have been able to do.
“I would appeal for people to go through the consultation process.
“That is very key to ensure their thoughts and feelings are picked up.”
This isn’t the first post office to face relocation.
Mr Gibson said: “We have, in the past four to five years, transformed more than 7,500 post offices by moving them into retail environments.
“We need to look to the future. We need to keep sustainable and viable and we believe this move secures the branch in Farnham.”
When asked what he thought of residents’ suggestions that the plans were a “done deal”, Mr Gibson said: “I would totally disagree. This is not a done deal’.
“It isn’t until the end of the consultation period before we actually gather all that information and look into it.
“I disagree totally.”
Some of the main concerns levied by the public at the consultation were the pollution levels in West Street, queries about the current post office staff, and the narrowness of the street outside WHSmith.
David Howell, aged 60, said: “The location of WHSmith is an appalling choice, in respect to its proximity to the road, which is already very narrow, has high pollution levels and bad air quality.”
Sharing a similar opinion, 69-year-old Christopher Reek said: “I think it’s nonsense – the whole thing has been an absolute pig’s ear.
“The government should have never privatised the Post Office.”
David Beaman, Waverley borough and Farnham town councillor for the Farnham Castle ward, said he felt the consultation was just going “through the motions”.
“Yolande Hesse has put forward a proposal to convert the existing site at West Street into three separate retail units, one of which could be a post office with a suitable retail partner.
“But there does not seem to be any interest in this innovative solution to the problem.
“If the Post Office really did want their consultation process to be meaningful, they would agree to the move from West Street to be deferred from June for at least six months to allow investigation of more suitable locations to relocate other than the inadequate proposal of moving to WHSmith.”